The COVID Curve

More By Marian Guthrie

I tried to stay ahead of the curve. The COVID curve, that is. I’ve always been someone who tried to anticipate what might happen, just in case, and then been prepared.

Before our third child was born, I baked nearly every muffin recipe out of the Women’s Weekly Muffins and Scones cookbook. In my freezer, I had a selection of blueberry, jaffa, white chocolate and macadamia muffins and more, just in case a visitor popped by. All I needed to do then, was defrost and reheat a couple for a home-baked treat. 

I’ve always been someone who tried to anticipate what might happen, just in case, and then been prepared … Before our third child was born, I baked nearly every muffin recipe out of the Women’s Weekly Muffins and Scones cookbook.

I’d make a double batch of Bolognese sauce and freeze half, so I’d have a meal ready just in case the following week was hectic. All I needed to do then was defrost, reheat and put on some pasta.

It extended to my studies too. Before the beginning of semester, I would take the reading list of novels for my English units and begin ploughing through them, annotating each one as I read, so I was ready. Then, when the assignments were set, all I’d have to do was select the appropriate novels and start researching and writing.

I tried to stay ahead of the curve.

Organised? Yes. But really, it’s been a way to avoid chaos and manage my anxiety. If I can reduce the amount of stress by being prepared, then I’m a much calmer, relaxed person. I have controlled as much as possible what the future might hold.

It’s no different with COVID. When I heard one Monday that cafes were going to only serve takeaway coffee as of noon that day, I made sure that I sat in a café (it wasn’t even my favourite) and sipped on a latte. When I heard that very soon the distance of travel would be restricted, I took myself out of Sydney to my favourite lookout in the Blue Mountains and sat in my car with my takeaway coffee and watched Govett’s Leap turn from hues of indigo to soft greys as rain and mist enveloped it. That was a Thursday, by Sunday all National Parks were closed. When it became apparent that we could no longer meet in groups any larger than ten, I made sure I attended my last growth group in person.  I wasn’t trying to be prepared but I was anticipating I time when I would no longer be free to do these simple pleasures.

I tried to stay ahead of the curve.

But there were things I couldn’t anticipate. When I chose to study at Moore College because with the exception of one course, it only offered its courses face to face, I didn’t expect that by mid-March I would be attending classes online. When our son moved into a residential college, in January and I anticipated it as his opportunity to begin his life of independence, I didn’t expect that by late February he would move back home. And when I attended my last onsite church service on March 15, as we gathered as God’s family around His word, I hadn’t anticipated that it would be the last time until who knows when. Nor, when I placed my order for tickets for my April Graduation for my Bachelor of Arts, did I expect that it would be postponed.

I failed to stay ahead of the COVID curve.

But the COVID curve brought some unanticipated joy. All my family living together again—shared dinner times, puzzling, competing against each other in Mario Cart, times of laughter and a few moments of tears. Spending time in the garden. Discovering the beauty so close to home along the shores of the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers. Reconnecting with long-ago friends, developing new friendships and delving deeper with well-established ones. Experiencing the love and generosity of friends lending their kayaks and putting a surprise care package in our car. Learning and navigating new technological skills even brought a sense of satisfaction and a strange sense of elation.

I thought I was going okay. I was managing the chaos, I’d kept my anxiety at bay, I felt as though I was adapting.  I was still waking at my regular time, still reading my Bible and praying. Sometimes I felt like a hunter-gatherer as I ventured out to Woolies, all the time adhering to the social distancing regulations as I negotiated the aisles and check-out. Only buying the stipulated two cans of tomatoes, two boxes of tissues, one packet of serviettes and ensuring we had enough toilet paper and rice and flour – all the things deemed essential in a COVID world. My one moment of failure came when I was turned away from my local butcher because he couldn’t serve me before his newly self-imposed reduced opening hours. Even that I brushed aside, and found another butcher.

The world was changing but I took solace in these words from Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet:

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God will stand forever.

I thought I was managing the curve.

I thought I was going okay. I was managing the chaos, I’d kept my anxiety at bay, I felt as though I was adapting … I thought I was managing the curve. But last week, ever so slightly, cracks began to appear.

But last week, ever so slightly, cracks began to appear. I was irritated because I could see the hard work of weight loss by my husband becoming undone. And I didn’t help—each afternoon I would suggest cheese and a glass of red to mark the end of the day. One evening, shrouded by a pall of sadness I sat quietly in the lounge room and wept over all the changes. Then, on Thursday morning my heart soared as I stepped outside to a golden sunrise. But that afternoon, a family member broke one of my platters. It wasn’t overly special—we used it most days. The cracks that had appeared the evening before splintered and shattered. A howl escaped me as I looked at the shards of pottery on the kitchen bench. Leaving the pieces stacked like an obelisk, I cocooned myself in my bedroom and for an hour, lay on my bed and howled. The curve had engulfed me.

Emotionally spent, I emerged from my cocoon and traipsed down the hallway to the kitchen to make a cuppa. Before I put the kettle on, the doorbell rang. Wishing that someone would answer the door, I hesitated long enough that someone did open it, but the visitor wanted me.

The day that had started with a golden sunrise had turned bleak, and a brisk wind whipped around our legs. Rugged up against the wind and rain stood a friend from church. Proffering a brown paper bag full of home-baked treats, she said, “This is for you from a few of us.”

“Thank you!” I said, hoping that she hadn’t noticed my swollen, red-rimmed eyes. Social distancing meant that I couldn’t hug her but could only offer a watery smile.

Nestled amongst the treats was a card, on its front in handwriting, one of my favourite Bible verses:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning.”

After I’d put my goodies in the fridge, I grabbed my phone and sent a message.

I’m no fan of the curve, but even though it has engulfed me, I’m eking out a new routine, I’m appreciating simple things, and I’m grateful to my God, the Ancient of Days, who holds time in His hands, who has called me by name and who will never leave or forsake me.

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